Family films to see at the cinema
Fancy a trip to the cinema, but don’t know what would be fun with the kids? Here’s our up-to-date guide of family films, written by Mike Davies especially with families and kids in mind. Everything from small scale films to great blockbusters for all the family PLUS trailers for upcoming films! Please note that not all 12A films are appropriate for younger children. Let’s Go With The Children offers a guide to what’s suitable for family viewing.
New releases out now
Maleficent: Mistress Of Evil (PG)
The first film took the story of Sleeping Beauty and the evil fairy Maleficent well beyond the fairy tale, telling events from the latter’s perspective and giving her a moral makeover in her love for the princess Aurora, returning the Moors to their magical glory and making her god-daughter Queen.
Set five years on, this takes it even further as, not best pleased to learn from Aurora (a rosy-cheeked Elle Fanning) that she has accepted the marriage proposal by Prince Phillip (Harris Dickinson) and, invited to dinner at the palace by King John (Robert Lindsay) and Queen Ingrith (Michelle Pfeiffer), Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) throws a stupendous tantrum when the latter says Aurora will now have a real mother, seemingly leaving the King comatose in a curse. Flying off, she is, however, shot down using missiles made of iron, to which the fey are apparently vulnerable along with a deadly toxin made from flowers that bloom on the graves of dead fairies.
All this, as the film is quick to explain, has to do with the scheming Ingrith’s plan to start a war between the humans and the fey who live in the Moors so she can destroy their kind forever. What she hadn’t counted on was Maleficent being saved by an origin story involving her hitherto unmentioned kin of fellow Dark Fey, among them peace wanting Connall (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and the more belligerent Borra (Ed Skein), setting the stage for Ingrith’s luring them and the inhabitants of the Moors to the palace for the wedding – and their destruction.
While enchanting in its depiction of the assorted fairy folk and other magical beings, given some truly dark moments and theme of genocide, this is likely to give younger audiences sleepless nights, not to mention having them confused over its revisionist account of the infamous spinning wheel.
Sporting horned headpiece, black wings and chiselled cheekbones, the formidable Jolie plays it to the max while, in a showdown between competing alpha mothers-in-law that climaxes in a humdinger of a battle, Pfeiffer delivers icy ruthlessness with aplomb, largely leaving the rest of the cast in their shadow with only Sam Riley as Maleficent’s shape shifting raven Diaval not being eclipsed.
It’s all something of an overly busy, overlong if visually dazzling mess in search of a coherent story, but there’s no denying there are still many hugely entertaining pleasures here. And those cheekbones. 118 mins
LGWTC Guidance: It’s like Game of Thrones for the kids.
A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon (U)
Making his big screen debut in 2015, Aardman Animation’s woolly mischief-maker returns to raise the baa with a second family friendly claymation feature to delight all ages, all without barely a single distinguishable word of dialogue. Life on Mossy Bottom Farm is pretty much business as usual with the farmer’s wardrobe not having extended beyond jumper and red underpants and his dog, Bitzer, clamping down on every attempt by Shaun to engage in any non-sheep fun activities, one of which, involving a frisbee, ends up in wrecking the combine harvester.
Meanwhile, in the woods, on the way back from the chippy, a man sees an alien spacecraft land, emerging from it a cute kiddie alien with big floppy telekinetic-power ears and a talent for vocal imitation who, it transpires is called Lu-La and who, playing around back on her own planet, accidentally managed to trigger the family spaceship and has ended up on Earth.
Discovered by Shaun hiding out in the barn and eating his pizza, the thrust of the story is he, the flock and, eventually, Bitzer, band together to try to help her return home to her parents, meaning they first have to find the device that powers the ship, the problem being that she’s been hunted by the men in yellow from the Ministry of Alien Detection and, for reasons of her own, their alien obsessed boss. Meanwhile, all the talk of aliens has created a local media buzz, attracting all manner of UFO seekers, something Farmer looks to cash in on by getting the sheep to build him a n alien encounter theme park, Farmageddon, and charging £30 a pop for admission so he can buy his new dream harvester.
As you would expect, the film is stuffed with sci-fi movie references, notably nodding to the monolith moment in 2001: A Space Odyssey, the coded notes of Close Encounters, the X-Files music and even an appearance by Doctor Who (Tom Baker version) with a portaloo Tardis. On top of which you get a reminder not to overdo those sugar-rush drinks, a running gag about poor mobile phone reception in the countryside while the tacky Farmageddon itself nods to all those shoddy pop-up Santa experience rip-offs.
Making up for inspired silent-movie styled physical comedy for what it lacks in dialogue, while subtle claymation facial features impart a wide range of emotional responses, this is shear enjoyment and very British fun. 86 mins
LGWTC Guidance: Flock to see it
Already a massive hit in America, the studio behind How To Train Your Dragon take on another mythical creature with the Abominable Snowman. Having escaped a laboratory, the pre-teen Yeti winds up in Shanghai where violin-playing loner Yi (Chloe Bennett) lives with her widowed mother and pork dumpling addict gran. Soothing the creature with music, Yi, with the help of nerdy cousin Peng (Albert Tsai) and vain med student Jin (Tenzing Norgay Trainor), set out to take Everest (Joseph Izzo), the name they’ve given their new chum, back to his home in the Himalayas. Naturally, there’s a clutch of bad guys (Eddie Izzard, Sarah Poulson) out to stop them. Not to mention getting attacked by blueberries. 97 mins
LGWTC Guidance: Perfect rainy weekend viewing
Dora And The Lost City Of Gold (PG)
The first animation to star a female Latina protagonist, Dora the Explorer, a sort of junior wide-eyed innocent Lara Croft, ran on Nickelodeon for six years and is still screened as reruns. Now she makes her live action debut starring a charismatic Isabela Moner (from Instant Family), initially a seven year old, as in the TV series, before it cuts to her as a young teen, living in the South American jungle with her archaeology professor explorer parents (Eva Longoria and Michael Peña), who are about to embark on a quest to find the fabled lost Inca city of Parapata. Dora is disappointed to find, however, that she’s being sent on a different adventure, to high school in Los Angeles where’s she’s reunited her cousin and childhood best friend Diego (Jeff Wahlberg).
Suffice to say, after a brief dalliance with familiar high school misfit sequences, she’s abducted by three mercenaries looking to track down her parents and seize the fabled treasure. She’s not alone, also taken captive are Diego and two classmates, nerdy Randy (Nicholas Coombe) and insecure queen bee Sammy (Madeleine Madden). Arriving back in South America, they’re swiftly rescued by Alejandro (Eugenio Derbez), an old friend of Dora’s parents and, joined by Dora’s pet monkey, Boots (voiced by Danny Trejo), they set off to find her folks before the treasure hunters do.
Needless to say, the journey involves an assortment of ‘be yourself’ life lessons, a betrayal and, inevitably, the irrepressibly upbeat Dora bursting into spontaneous made up songs (including one about doing a poo in the jungle) before climaxing in the lost city as they’re confronted by its guardians.
Resolutely pitched at a young audience, there’s virtually no concessions for the grown-ups. Kids, on the other hand, should be swept up by what is, basically, a return to the old days of Saturday matinees that inspired the likes of Indiana Jones. In addition to puzzles to be solved, there’s nods to the original series when the characters inhale a hallucinatory pollen and find themselves transformed into cartoons, Boots retains his far from realistic-looking appearance and, dispensing with any notions of reality, the bad guys are abetted by Swiper (voiced by Benicio Del Toro), the masked, talking fox from the cartoons. The film even sneaks in Dora’s talking backpack. Great fun. 102 mins
LGWTC Guidance: aDORAble
Lion King (PG)
It would be easy to believe this live-action film contains actual flesh and fur, earth and water. It’s hard to imagine anyone who isn’t familiar with the original, so, again opening with the Circle of Life gathering at Pride Rock, this virtual shot by shot, line by line update won’t hold any narrative surprises as, having fled the Pridelands believing himself responsible for the death of his father, Mufasa (James Earl Jones reprising his role), in a stampede, the young Simba (JD McCrary) grows into the adult lion (Donald Glover) who will eventually return and liberate the land from his treacherous uncle, Scar (Chiwetol Ejiofor). The thrill comes, instead, from seeing the characters in such three-dimensional form, the hyenas even more scary-looking while, still singing Hakuna Matata, the new incarnations of warthog Puumba (Seth Rogan) and meerkat Timon (Billy Eichner) are a delight, especially in the way the former, all bristles and tusk, trots along like dainty ballerina.
There’s no new additions, but all the familiar characters are present and correct with an impressive array of appropriately African-American vocal talent that includes Alfre Woodard as Sarabi, Simba’s mother, John Kani as mandrill shaman Rafiki, Beyoncé, in a slightly expanded role, as Nala, Simba’s childhood best friend and future love interest who not only gets to duet on Can You Feel The Love Tonight but has her own all new song, Spirit. While Shahadi Wright Joseph from the original Broadway cast is the young cub. Whether the revamp has any point beyond the technical accomplishments is open to debate, but the magic is undiminished. 118 mins Also in IMAX and IMAX 3D
LGWTC Guidance: A roaring success
Toy Story 4 (U)
The fourth and final entry pulls together the themes that have run throughout the saga for a finale that will have audiences welling up. It opens nine years earlier when Woody (Tom Hanks) and the other toys, among them Jessie (Joan Cusack) and Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), were still owned by Andy, as he sees porcelain lamp Bo Peep (Annie Potts) being boxed up to go to a new home. He attempts to rescue her, but she insists it’s time to move on and invites him to join her. Loyal to his kid, Woody refuses.
Fast forward and his new kid, Bonnie (Madeleine McGraw) is off to kindergarten orientation and although she hasn’t played with him in weeks, Woody sneaks into her backpack to ensure she’s ok and inadvertently ends up helping her make as friend, literally, a plastic spork with pipe-cleaner arms, popsicle-stick feet and googly eyes that she calls Forky (Tony Hale). Although he’s her new favourite, Woody has to convince him that he’s a toy not trash and that he’s important to Bonnie.
At which point, the family take a road trip to an amusement park where Woody spots Bo Peep’s lamp in the window of Second Chance Antiques and discovers she’s embraced the life of a lost toy and become something of feisty empowered female riding around in a motorised skunk.
However, also in the store is Gabby Gabby (Christina Hendricks), a creepy vintage pull-string doll who, assisted by four ventriloquist dummy henchdolls, takes Forky hostage because she wants to replace her broken pull string voice box with Woody’s in the hope of getting a kid of her own.
What ensues are two related rescue missions involving Bo, Buzz and Jessie alongside new characters conjoined plushies Bunny (Jordan Peele) and Ducky (Keegan-Michael Key), mini-toy Giggle McDimples (Ally Maki) and Canadian stunt biker Duke Caboom (Keanu Reeves) who is plagued by a sense of failure after being discarded.
Exploring themes such as finding your purpose, self-worth, abandonment, loyalty, responsibility, selflessness, and that moving on doesn’t mean you stop loving or being loved, it will touch chords in both children and adults alike while also providing thrilling action sequences, scares, poignancy, laughs and moments of breathtaking beauty. 100 mins Also in IMAX 2D
LGWTC Guidance: From a joyful reunion to a moving parting of the ways farewell, this will take your heart to infinity and beyond.
From Friday 25th October
The Addams Family (PG)
Last seen on the big screen back in1991, cartoonist Charles Addams eccentric family of monsters return, this time in animated form, as the family move to New Jersey and come face to face with a culture clash of the 21st century and greedy, manipulative reality TV host Margaux Needle (Allison Janney) whose young daughter befriends Wednesday. Featuring the voices of Oscar Isaac (Gomez), Charlize Theron (Morticia), Chloë Grace Moretz (Wednesday), Finn Wolfhard (Pugsley) Nick Kroll (Uncle Fester), Bette Midler (Grandmama) and Snoop Dogg (Cousin Itt) as the family plus, of course, Thing, the disembodied hand, this should delight fans of Hotel Transylvania who may never have heard of the Addams before. 105mins
Not all 12A films are appropriate for younger children. Let’s Go With The Children offers a guide to what’s suitable for family viewing.